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Police and health unit combine forces to fight opioid overdoses


An opioid overdose crisis is sweeping across central Ontario.

Addiction to opioids, and especially the increased use of fentanyl, has become an urgent public health matter in our communities.

"It's gone beyond a crisis. It's become a tragedy," said Cathy Eisener, a public health nurse at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

There were 136 opioid related deaths in 2022 which is a 20 per cent decrease from the 171 deaths in 2021. Despite this, last year's death toll remains substantially higher than what was observed before the pandemic both locally and provincially.

"I always want to point out – these aren't numbers – we're talking about people," Eisener said.

The fatalities are substantially higher than pre-COVID-19 days, she said.

Working with the Nottawasaga Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the health unit and police are focusing an opioid public awareness campaign on the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA).

At the centre of the OPP's response to the opioid crisis is the spirit of the Overdose Act, which is intended to save lives, said Nottawasaga OPP Const. Katy Viccary.

Many opioid-related deaths are preventable if medical attention is received quickly, but evidence shows that witnesses to an overdose often do not call 911 for fear of police involvement and legal consequences, Viccary said.

The Act aims to reduce the fear of police attending overdose events and encourage people to seek life-saving assistance and stay with a victim in the event of an overdose.


The GSDOA came into effect in May 2017 and amended the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to provide some legal protection for people seeking emergency assistance during an overdose.

The GSDOA applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including those experiencing an overdose. The Act protects the person who seeks help, whether they stay or leave the overdose scene before help arrives. The Act also protects anyone else at the scene when help arrives.

The GSDOA does provide protection against charges for:

  • Possessing drugs for personal use.
  • Violating conditions of parole, bail, probation or conditional sentence for a simple drug possession charge.

The GSDOA won't provide protection against charges for:

  • Trafficking illegal drugs.
  • Any outstanding arrest warrants.
  • Violating conditions of parole, bail, probation or conditional sentence for an offence that is not simple possession

If you suspect an overdose, stay, call 911 and save a life. Top Stories

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